Balance verses Harmony
I just need to find balance in my life!
If I could just get things balanced out, everything would be better.
Balance is what I’m missing! I need more balance in my life and then things will start to go smoother.
Why can’t I be more balanced? I feel like I’m all over the place!
On and on it goes. How many times have you thought something like this? How many times have you tried to find or create balance in your life only to have the balance get upset yet again by something else? How many times have you started out with good intentions only to have your plans fall to pieces when something unexpected came up?
I know I’ve been there – more times than I could possibly begin to count!
It seems to hit the hardest when one thing in your life is taking center stage. All of a sudden, you start to crave balance. You start to crave this order that seems to be missing. Finding balance becomes top on your list because balance feels like a solid foundation. Balance – that illusive concept of balance – seems to offer you that stability. That calm. That breath of fresh air. That space where you can actually breathe.
But is balance what you’re really looking for? Is finding balance that important? Or has the concept and the idea of balance become so alluring that the reality of what it is has disappeared somewhere along the way?
Balance: What Is It?
Before we talk any more about balance, let’s get a clear picture of what it really is. According to dictionary.com, balance is “a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.” When you use it as a verb, balance means “to bring or hold in equilibrium; poise; to arrange, adjust, or proportion the parts of (an object) symmetrically.”
In other words, when something is in balance, it’s stable. It’s equal on all sides. As I read this definition, the picture of a person walking with a book on their head comes to mind. The goal of walking with a book on your head is to help your posture and your poise, right? The next goal would be to make sure the book doesn’t hit the floor! So, as you set the book on your head, you make sure the weight of the book is evenly distributed so your chances of keeping the book on your head as you start moving are greater, right?
Now, it might be easy to put a paperback book that’s less than an inch thick on your head and keep it balanced. To keep walking without dropping the book. But what happens when you put another book on top? Or another? Or a hardback book that measures 12 inches by 12 inches? The bigger and thicker the book, the harder it is to keep it on your head and not let it go tumbling to the floor, right? The higher the stack of books goes, the harder it is to keep them all from crashing to the ground!
This is a lot like life! When you’re growing up, it feels like you have one, maybe two small paperback books to keep on your head. Not the easiest thing in the world, but very doable. Yet as you grow and more responsibilities come your way…
As you add children to your family and more demands of life start vying for your time, that stack of books starts to get pretty tall and pretty wide…
Which means that it’s getting harder and harder to keep it in balance!
Balance: Is It Worth It?
You know, for all this talk about finding balance, I’m not sure the true meaning of balance in life is understood. Think about it like this: You have a painting to hang on your wall that requires two points or two nails to hang. Now, if you want your painting to hang straight and not look all cockeyed, you’re probably going to pull out a level and use it to make sure your painting is balanced, right?
But the purpose of the level is to make sure everything is perfectly even. The job of the level is to make sure one side is not higher than the other. That the painting is perfectly even.
You might say the job of the level is to make sure that one side of the painting isn’t seen as more important than the other.
This is where the idea of balance breaks down when it comes to life: If you live a perfectly balanced life, you’re essentially making sure that no one thing is more important than any other thing in your life. You’re making sure everything in your life carries equal weight and is of equal importance.
But this just isn’t true! Cleaning your house doesn’t carry the same level of importance as caring for your family, right? Taking time to watch a movie doesn’t carry the same amount of importance as working through your homeschooling lessons with your children.
You see, if everything is in balance, that means everything carries equal importance. But if everything has the same exact amount of importance, that’s the same as saying that nothing in life is important.
How Do You Fix This?
So, if everything in life is of equal importance, than nothing is truly important. Even just saying this out loud feels like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, right? What do you do about it? We all know there are things in life that are more important than others. Family, faith, and friends are more important than vacuuming the carpet or hunting down the perfect sale on those shoes (cute as they may be!).
But how do you fix this? How do you get out from between this massive rock and this hard place to figure out or find the balance of life?
First of all, I think we need to drop the idea and the word picture of balance. Don’t get me wrong, balance is important to certain areas of life. Walking. Hanging pictures on the wall. A ballerina balancing en pointe. All of these and more need balance!
But when it comes to how you pattern your life. When it comes to how you look at the different things you do, at all the different tasks you need to accomplish and all the different people you get to serve and take care of in a day or in a week or in a month, I think we need a better word.
Harmony: What Is It?
Okay, so what is harmony, then? Well, according to dictionary.com, harmony is “agreement; a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.” It even says that when it comes to music, harmony is “the simultaneous combination of tones, especially when blended into chords pleasing to the ear.”
Did you catch that? Harmony is agreement. Consistency. Order. A pleasing arrangement. Not necessarily everything having the exact same amount of something. But a pleasing, orderly arrangement.
Let me see if I can break this down a little bit more. Have you ever heard a symphony orchestra play? If not, take a moment and look up the Boston Symphony Orchestra or the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on your favorite streaming music platform (or even YouTube) and listen while you keep reading.
A symphony orchestra is made up of a huge number of instruments in multiple categories. You have the violins, cellos, and base in the strings section. The trumpets, French horns, trombones, and tubas in the brass section. The flutes, clarinets, oboes and bassoons in the woodwind section, the drums, piano, and xylophone in the percussion section. And this is just a few of the instruments in a full symphony orchestra! Not to mention the fact that there is more than one of each instrument! There are multiple people playing each different instrument, all kept together and in time with one another by the conductor.
Now, if you were listening to a symphony orchestra play and all the instruments were playing all at the same time, all the same music, and at the same level, what would it sound like? It wouldn’t sound right! It would feel loud and hard to hear any one instrument. Not to mention there would be no depth to the music because every instrument would be playing the exact same notes!
What about if every instrument started playing whatever they wanted? Different songs, different speeds, different notes, different volumes. It would sound confusing and chaotic and you wouldn’t know what to focus on or pay attention to, right?
But, when a symphony orchestra plays a piece of music composed for the orchestra in the way it was meant to be played, it sounds incredible! There’s an ebb and flow to the music. There are quieter bits and louder bits. There are times when the violins and strings take center stage and have their moment to shine and there are times when the brass takes over. There are times when the flutes and bassoon come in and add to the music and times when the drums or tympani come bursting in with their resounding rhythm.
And yet, the entire piece of music is played in harmony. If you took out one of the instruments, it wouldn’t sound the same. If you allowed all the musicians to play at the same volume level throughout the entire piece, it wouldn’t sound the same. It wouldn’t have that incredible goosebump-worthy quality of symphony music.
Your Life is a Symphony
Your life is like a symphony orchestra. Did you know that? You have people, values, and activities in your life that are more important than others. You go through different seasons of life. There are times in your day when one activity or one person takes center stage in your thoughts and your actions. And yet, that doesn’t mean the other parts of your life disappear completely. It just means they’re a little quieter for that time.
For example, if you have young children, when it comes time to put them to bed, your children become the focus, right? Jammies, brushing teeth, reading a book or singing a song, tucking them in, whatever your specific nighttime routine is, that’s what you focus on. Now, let’s say you want to sit down and read a chapter or two in your book. If you keep putting your kids to bed and reading your book as equal priorities and try to do them both at the same time, it’s not going to go well, right? Your kids won’t go to bed and you won’t be able to focus on your book! On the other hand, if you focus on the higher priority first (putting your kids to bed), and then move to the next priority (reading your book), things go a lot smoother and everything gets taken care of.
Or what about homeschooling and cleaning? These are both important things in life, right? Your children need to do their school work and learn and no one likes to have to use a dirty bathroom! But if you try to keep these two things in the exact same balance and give them both the same amount of time, you’ll be cleaning way more than you need to or not giving your homeschooling the time it deserves. On the other hand, if you keep these two priorities in harmony, you can have a clean bathroom while at the same time giving much more of your time, energy, and effort into homeschooling and teaching your children.
This is the concept of harmony. The idea that you can find balance. The ideas that your life can be in perfect balance all the time is, quite frankly, a lie! It’s not possible! Because if you keep everything of equal importance, you’re really saying that nothing in your life is important.
However, if you choose to embrace harmony, life becomes more relaxed. You accept the fact that there are people and things that are more important than others. You accept the fact that in certain seasons of life one area of life will require a lot more time and attention than others. You accept the fact that just because you’re not giving equal time to everything in your life doesn’t mean that you’re failing. It simply means you are accepting life for what it is: A symphony that is in the process of being written.
So let go of the perfection of finding balance. Let go of the idea that you’ll ever truly be able to achieve balance. Let go of the striving, the straining, the stress. Because, let’s face it: When you’re working so hard to create balance in everything, you really end up creating more stress and more work for yourself.
Instead, embrace the peace of harmony. Embrace the fact that life comes in seasons. Embrace the fact that sometimes one area will rise up and take center stage in your focus. Embrace the fact that it won’t be forever. Embrace the fact that you have people and things in your life that are more important than others.
And embrace the fact that even though learning harmony is a challenge, it can be done!
And whenever you need a reminder, just look up one of the symphony orchestras and let them play over your speakers. No words needed.
- How to Overcome Perfectionism and Mom Guilt
- The Powerful Integration of Life and Music
- 7 Ways to Pause and Gain Space in Our World of Chaos
- The Changing of the Seasons of Life
- How to Intentionally Create a Pattern for Your Day
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.